Researchers are finding ways to make vehicles safer, lighter, more powerful — and ultimately less expensive — by building materials one atom at a time.

Nanotechnology, which involves working at a scale more than 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, is about to revolutionize the way cars are built and driven.

Factories will run more efficiently with the help of microscopic assembly machines. Injuries caused by accidents will be reduced. And eventually the price of your dream car might finally be a little closer to your budget.

General Motors Corp. is already using nanocomposites to build lighter but stronger running boards for several van models, as well as cargo beds for the Hummer H2 and exterior panels for the Chevrolet Malibu sedan.

But that’s only the beginning. Your next car could have a nanocoated windshield that resists cracking and breaking, a lighter body that provides better crash protection or even cup holders that keep your coffee steaming in the morning and your Coke cold on the ride home.

More here.